The War of Opposites, and Their Unity and Identity, by Hegel

The War of Opposites, and Their Unity and Identity, by Hegel

Postby admin » Fri Nov 30, 2018 7:40 pm

The Open Society and Its Enemies [EXCERPT]
by Karl R. Popper

II

I begin my analysis of Hegel's philosophy with a general comparison between Hegel's historicism and that of Plato. Plato believed that the Ideas or essences exist prior to the things in flux, and that the trend of all developments can be explained as a movement away from the perfection of the Ideas, and therefore as a descent, as a movement towards decay. The history of states, especially, is one of degeneration; and ultimately this degeneration is due to the racial degeneration of the ruling class. (We must here remember the close relationship between the Platonic notions of 'race', 'soul', 'nature', and 'essence' [21].) Hegel believes, with Aristotle, that the Ideas or essences are in the things in flux; or more precisely (as far as we can treat a Hegel with precision), Hegel teaches that they are identical with the things in flux: 'Everything actual is an Idea', he says [22]. But this does not mean that the gulf opened up by Plato between the essence of a thing and its sensible appearance is closed; for Hegel writes: 'Any mention of Essence implies that we distinguish it from the Being' (of the thing);' . . . upon the latter, as compared with Essence, we rather look as mere appearance or semblance . . . Everything has an Essence, we have said; that is, things are not what they immediately show themselves to be.' Also like Plato and Aristotle, Hegel conceives the essences, at least those of organisms (and therefore also those of states), as souls, or 'Spirits'.

But unlike Plato, Hegel does not teach that the trend of the development of the world in flux is a descent, away from the Idea, towards decay. Like Speusippus and Aristotle, Hegel teaches that the general trend is rather towards the Idea; it is progress. Although he says [23], with Plato, that 'the perishable thing has its basis in Essence, and originates from it', Hegel insists, in opposition to Plato, that even the essences develop. In Hegel's world, as in Heraclitus', everything is in flux; and the essences, originally introduced by Plato in order to obtain something stable, are not exempted. But this flux is not decay. Hegel's historicism is optimistic. His essences and Spirits are, like Plato's souls, self-moving; they are self-developing, or, using more fashionable terms, they are 'emerging' and 'self-creating'. And they propel themselves in the direction of an Aristotelian 'final cause', or, as Hegel puts it [24], towards a 'self-realizing and self-realized final cause in itself. This final cause or end of the development of the essences is what Hegel calls 'The absolute Idea' or 'The Idea'. (This Idea is, Hegel tells us, rather complex: it is, all in one, the Beautiful; Cognition and Practical Activity; Comprehension; the Highest Good; and the Scientifically Contemplated Universe. But we really need not worry about minor difficulties such as these.) We can say that Hegel's world of flux is in a state of 'emergent' or 'creative evolution' [25]; each of its stages contains the preceding ones, from which it originates; and each stage supersedes all previous stages, approaching nearer and nearer to perfection. The general law of development is thus one of progress; but, as we shall see, not of a simple and straightforward, but of a 'dialectic' progress.

As previous quotations have shown, the collectivist Hegel, like Plato, visualizes the state as an organism; and following Rousseau who had furnished it with a collective 'general will', Hegel furnishes it with a conscious and thinking essence, its 'reason' or 'Spirit'. This Spirit, whose 'very essence is activity' (which shows its dependence on Rousseau), is at the same time the collective Spirit of the Nation that forms the state.

To an essentialist, knowledge or understanding of the state must clearly mean knowledge of its essence or Spirit. And as we have seen [26] in the last chapter, we can know the essence and its 'potentialities' only from its 'actual' history. Thus we arrive at the fundamental position of historicist method, that the way of obtaining knowledge of social institutions such as the state is to study its history, or the history of its 'Spirit'. And the other two historicist consequences developed in the last chapter follow also. The Spirit of the nation determines its hidden historical destiny; and every nation that wishes 'to emerge into existence' must assert its individuality or soul by entering the 'Stage of History', that is to say, by fighting the other nations; the object of the fight is world domination. We can see from this that Hegel, like Heraclitus, believes that war is the father and king of all things. And like Heraclitus, he believes that war is just: 'The History of the World is the World's court of justice', writes Hegel. And like Heraclitus, Hegel generalizes this doctrine by extending it to the world of nature, interpreting the contrasts and oppositions of things, the polarity of opposites, etc., as a kind of war, and as a moving force of natural development. And like Heraclitus, Hegel believes in the unity or identity of opposites; indeed, the unity of opposites plays such an important part in the evolution, in the 'dialectical' progress, that we can describe these two Heraclitean ideas, the war of opposites, and their unity or identity, as the main ideas of Hegel's dialectics.

So far, this philosophy appears as a tolerably decent and honest historicism, although one that is perhaps a little unoriginal [27]; and there seems to be no reason to describe it, with Schopenhauer, as charlatanism. But this appearance begins to change if we now turn to an analysis of Hegel's dialectics. For he proffers this method with an eye to Kant, who, in his attack upon metaphysics (the violence of these attacks may be gauged from the motto to my 'Introduction'), had tried to show that all speculations of this kind are untenable. Hegel never attempted to refute Kant. He bowed, and twisted Kant's view into its opposite. This is how Kant's 'dialectics', the attack upon metaphysics, was converted into Hegelian 'dialectics', the main tool of metaphysics.

Kant, in his Critique of Pure Reason, asserted under the influence of Hume that pure speculation or reason, whenever it ventures into a field in which it cannot possibly be checked by experience, is liable to get involved in contradictions or 'antinomies' and to produce what he unambiguously described as 'mere fancies'; 'nonsense'; 'illusions'; 'a sterile dogmatism'; and 'a superficial pretension to the knowledge of everything' [28]. He tried to show that to every metaphysical assertion or thesis, concerning for example the beginning of the world in time, or the existence of God, there can be contrasted a counter-assertion or antithesis; and both, he held, may proceed from the same assumptions, and can be proved with an equal degree of 'evidence'. In other words, when leaving the field of experience, our speculation can have no scientific status, since to every argument there must be an equally valid counter-argument. Kant's intention was to stop once and forever the 'accursed fertility' of the scribblers on metaphysics. But unfortunately, the effect was very different. What Kant stopped was only the attempts of the scribblers to use rational argument; they only gave up the attempt to teach, but not the attempt to bewitch the public (as Schopenhauer puts it [29]). For this development, Kant himself undoubtedly bears a very considerable share of the blame; for the obscure style of his work (which he wrote in a great hurry, although only after long years of meditation) contributed considerably to a further lowering of the low standard of clarity in German theoretical writing [30]. None of the metaphysical scribblers who came after Kant made any attempt to refute him [31]; and Hegel, more particularly, even had the audacity to patronize Kant for 'reviving the name of Dialectics, which he restored to their post of honour'. He taught that Kant was quite right in pointing out the antinomies, but that he was wrong to worry about them. It just lies in the nature of reason that it must contradict itself, Hegel asserted; and it is not a weakness of our human faculties, but it is the very essence of all rationality that it must work with contradictions and antinomies; for this is just the way in which reason develops. Hegel asserted that Kant had analysed reason as if it were something static; that he forgot that mankind develops, and with it, our social heritage. But what we are pleased to call our own reason is nothing but the product of this social heritage, of the historical development of the social group in which we live, the nation. This development proceeds dialectically, that is to say, in a three-beat rhythm. First a thesis is proffered; but it will produce criticism, it will be contradicted by opponents who assert its opposite, an antithesis; and in the conflict of these views, a synthesis is attained, that is to say, a kind of unity of the opposites, a compromise or a reconciliation on a higher level. The synthesis absorbs, as it were, the two original opposite positions, by superseding them; it reduces them to components of itself, thereby negating, elevating, and preserving them. And once the synthesis has been established, the whole process can repeat itself on the higher level that has now been reached. This is, in brief, the three-beat rhythm of progress which Hegel called the 'dialectic triad'.

I am quite prepared to admit that this is not a bad description of the way in which a critical discussion, and therefore also scientific thought, may sometimes progress. For all criticism consists in pointing out some contradictions or discrepancies, and scientific progress consists largely in the elimination of contradictions wherever we find them. This means, however, that science proceeds on the assumption that contradictions are impermissible and avoidable, so that the discovery of a contradiction forces the scientist to make every attempt to eliminate it; and indeed, once a contradiction is admitted, all science must collapse [32]. But Hegel derives a very different lesson from his dialectic triad. Since contradictions are the means by which science progresses, he concludes that contradictions are not only permissible and unavoidable but also highly desirable. This is a Hegelian doctrine which must destroy all argument and all progress. For if contradictions are unavoidable and desirable, there is no need to eliminate them, and so all progress must come to an end.

But this doctrine is just one of the main tenets of Hegelianism. Hegel's intention is to operate freely with all contradictions. 'All things are contradictory in themselves', he insists [33], in order to defend a position which means the end not only of all science, but of all rational argument. And the reason why he wishes to admit contradictions is that he wants to stop rational argument, and with it scientific and intellectual progress. By making argument and criticism impossible, he intends to make his own philosophy proof against all criticism, so that it may establish itself as a reinforced dogmatism, secure from every attack, and the unsurmountable summit of all philosophical development. (We have here a first example of a typical dialectical twist, the idea of progress, popular in a period which leads to Darwin, but not in keeping with conservative interests, is twisted into its opposite, that of a development which has arrived at an end — an arrested development.)

So much for Hegel's dialectic triad, one of the two pillars on which his philosophy rests. The significance of the theory will be seen when I proceed to its application.

The other of the two pillars of Hegelianism is his so-called philosophy of identity. It is, in its turn, an application of dialectics. I do not intend to waste the reader's time by attempting to make sense of it, especially since I have tried to do so elsewhere [34]; for in the main, the philosophy of identity is nothing but shameless equivocation, and, to use Hegel's own words, it consists of nothing but 'fancies, even imbecile fancies'. It is a maze in which are caught the shadows and echoes of past philosophies, of Heraclitus, Plato, and Aristotle, as well as of Rousseau and Kant, and in which they now celebrate a kind of witches' sabbath, madly trying to confuse and beguile the naive onlooker. The leading idea, and at the same time the link between Hegel's dialectics and his philosophy of identity, is Heraclitus' doctrine of the unity of opposites. 'The path that leads up and the path that leads down are identical', Heraclitus had said, and Hegel repeats this when he says: 'The way west and the way east are the same.' This Heraclitean doctrine of the identity of opposites is applied to a host of reminiscences from the old philosophies which are thereby 'reduced to components' of Hegel's own system. Essence and Idea, the one and the many, substance and accident, form and content, subject and object, being and becoming, everything and nothing, change and rest, actuality and potentiality, reality and appearance, matter and spirit, all these ghosts from the past seem to haunt the brain of the Great Dictator while he performs his dance with his balloon, with his puffed-up and fictitious problems of God and the World. But there is method in this madness, and even Prussian method. For behind the apparent confusion there lurk the interests of the absolute monarchy of Frederick William. The philosophy of identity serves to justify the existing order. Its main upshot is an ethical and juridical positivism, the doctrine that what is, is good, since there can be no standards but existing standards; it is the doctrine that might is right.

How is this doctrine derived? Merely by a series of equivocations. Plato, whose Forms or Ideas, as we have seen, are entirely different from 'ideas in the mind', had said that the Ideas alone are real, and that perishable things are unreal. Hegel adopts from this doctrine the equation Ideal = Real. Kant talked, in his dialectics, about the 'Ideas of pure Reason', using the term 'Idea' in the sense of 'ideas in the mind'. Hegel adopts from this the doctrine that the Ideas are something mental or spiritual or rational, which can be expressed in the equation Idea = Reason. Combined, these two equations, or rather equivocations, yield Real = Reason; and this allows Hegel to maintain that everything that is reasonable must be real, and everything that is real must be reasonable, and that the development of reality is the same as that of reason. And since there can be no higher standard in existence than the latest development of Reason and of the Idea, everything that is now real or actual exists by necessity, and must be reasonable as well as good [35]. (Particularly good, as we shall see, is the actually existing Prussian state.)

This is the philosophy of identity. Apart from ethical positivism a theory of truth also comes to light, just as a byproduct (to use Schopenhauer's words). And a very convenient theory it is. All that is reasonable is real, we have seen. This means, of course, that all that is reasonable must conform to reality, and therefore must be true. Truth develops in the same way as reason develops, and everything that appeals to reason in its latest stage of development must also be true for that stage. In other words, everything that seems certain to those whose reason is up to date, must be true. Self-evidence is the same as truth. Provided you are up to date, all you need is to believe in a doctrine; this makes it, by definition, true. In this way, the opposition between what Hegel calls 'the Subjective', i.e. belief, and 'the Objective', i.e. truth, is turned into an identity; and this unity of opposites explains scientific knowledge also. 'The Idea is the union of Subjective and Objective ... Science presupposes that the separation between itself and Truth is already cancelled.' [36]


So much on Hegel's philosophy of identity, the second pillar of wisdom on which his historicism is built. With its erection, the somewhat tiresome work of analysing Hegel's more abstract doctrines comes to an end. The rest of this chapter will be confined to the practical political applications made by Hegel of these abstract theories. And these practical applications will show us more clearly the apologetic purpose of all his labours.

Hegel's dialectics, I assert, are very largely designed to pervert the ideas of 1789. Hegel was perfectly conscious of the fact that the dialectic method can be used for twisting an idea into its opposite. 'Dialectics', he writes [37], 'are no novelty in philosophy. Socrates ... used to simulate the wish for some clearer knowledge about the subject under discussion, and after putting all sorts of questions with that intention, he brought those with whom he conversed round to the opposite of what their first impression had pronounced correct.' As a description of Socrates' intentions, this statement of Hegel's is perhaps not very fair (considering that Socrates' main aim was the exposure of cocksureness rather than the conversion of people to the opposite of what they believed before); but as a statement of Hegel's own intention, it is excellent, even though in practice Hegel's method turns out to be more clumsy than his programme indicates.

As a first example of this use of dialectics, I shall select the problem of freedom of thought, of the independence of science, and of the standards of objective truth, as treated by Hegel in the Philosophy of Law (§ 270). He begins with what can only be interpreted as a demand for freedom of thought, and for its protection by the state: 'The state', he writes, 'has ... thought as its essential principle. Thus freedom of thought, and science, can originate only in the state; it was the Church that burnt Giordano Bruno, and forced Galileo to recant ... Science, therefore, must seek protection from the state, since ... the aim of science is knowledge of objective truth.' After this promising start which we may take as representing the 'first impressions' of his opponents, Hegel proceeds to bring them 'to the opposite of what their first impressions pronounced correct', covering his change of front by another sham attack on the Church: 'But such knowledge does, of course, not always conform with the standards of science, it may degenerate into mere opinion . . . ; and for these opinions ... it' (i.e. science) 'may raise the same pretentious demand as the Church — the demand to be free in its opinions and convictions.' Thus the demand for freedom of thought, and of the claim of science to judge for itself, is described as 'pretentious'; but this is merely the first step in Hegel's twist. We next hear that, if faced with subversive opinions, 'the state must protect objective truth'; which raises the fundamental question: who is to judge what is, and what is not, objective truth? Hegel replies: 'The state has, in general, ... to make up its own mind concerning what is to be considered as objective truth.' With this reply, freedom of thought, and the claims of science to set its own standards, give way, finally, to their opposites.

As a second example of this use of dialectics, I select Hegel's treatment of the demand for a political constitution, which he combines with his treatment of equality and liberty. In order to appreciate the problem of the constitution, it must be remembered that Prussian absolutism knew no constitutional law (apart from such principles as the full sovereignty of the king) and that the slogan of the campaign for democratic reform in the various German principalities was that the prince should 'grant the country a constitution'. But Frederick William agreed with his councillor Ancillon in the conviction that he must never give way to 'the hotheads, that very active and loud-voiced group of persons who for some years have set themselves up as the nation and have cried for a constitution' [38]. And although, under great pressure, the king promised a constitution, he never fulfilled his word. (There is a story that an innocent comment on the king's 'constitution' led to the dismissal of his unfortunate court-physician.) Now how does Hegel treat this ticklish problem? 'As a living mind', he writes, 'the state is an organized whole, articulated into various agencies . . . The constitution is this articulation or organization of state power . . . The constitution is existent justice ... Liberty and equality are ... the final aims and results of the constitution.' This, of course, is only the introduction. But before proceeding to the dialectical transformation of the demand for a constitution into one for an absolute monarchy, we must first show how Hegel transforms the two 'aims and results', liberty and equality, into their opposites.

Let us first see how Hegel twists equality into inequality: 'That the citizens are equal before the law', Hegel admits [39], 'contains a great truth. But expressed in this way, it is only a tautology; it only states in general that a legal status exists, that the laws rule. But to be more concrete, the citizens . . . are equal before the law only in the points in which they are equal outside the law also. Only that equality which they possess in property, age, ... etc., can deserve equal treatment before the law ... The laws themselves . . . presuppose unequal conditions ... It should be said that it is just the great development and maturity of form in modern states which produces the supreme concrete inequality of individuals in actuality.'


In this outline of Hegel's twist of the 'great truth' of equalitarianism into its opposite, I have radically abbreviated his argument; and I must warn the reader that I shall have to do the same throughout the chapter; for only in this way is it at all possible to present, in a readable manner, his verbosity and the flight of his thoughts (which, I do not doubt, is pathological [40]).

We may consider liberty next. 'As regards liberty', Hegel writes, 'in former times, the legally defined rights, the private as well as public rights of a city, etc., were called its "liberties". Really, every genuine law is a liberty; for it contains a reasonable principle ...; which means, in other words, that it embodies a liberty . . . ' Now this argument which tries to show that 'liberty' is the same as 'a liberty' and therefore the same as 'law', from which it follows that the more laws, the more liberty, is clearly nothing but a clumsy statement (clumsy because it relies on a kind of pun) of the paradox of freedom, first discovered by Plato, and briefly discussed above [41]; a paradox that can be expressed by saying that unlimited freedom leads to its opposite, since without its protection and restriction by law, freedom must lead to a tyranny of the strong over the weak. This paradox, vaguely restated by Rousseau, was solved by Kant, who demanded that the freedom of each man should be restricted, but not beyond what is necessary to safeguard an equal degree of freedom for all. Hegel of course knows Kant's solution, but he does not like it, and he presents it, without mentioning its author, in the following disparaging way: 'To-day, nothing is more familiar than the idea that each must restrict his liberty in relation to the liberty of others; that the state is a condition of such reciprocal restrictions; and that the laws are restrictions. But', he goes on to criticize Kant's theory, 'this expresses the kind of outlook that views freedom as casual good-pleasure and self- will.' With this cryptic remark, Kant's equalitarian theory of justice is dismissed.

But Hegel himself feels that the little jest by which he equates liberty and law is not quite sufficient for his purpose; and somewhat hesitatingly he turns back to his original problem, that of the constitution. 'The term political liberty', he says [42], 'is often used to mean a formal participation in the public affairs of the state by ... those who otherwise find their chief function in the particular aims and business of civil society' (in other words, by the ordinary citizen). 'And it has ... become a custom to give the title "constitution" only to that side of the state which establishes such participation and to regard a state in which this is not formally done as a state without a constitution.' Indeed, this has become a custom. But how to get out of it? By a merely verbal trick — by a definition: 'About this use of the term, the only thing to say is that by a constitution we must understand the determination of laws in general, that is to say, of liberties . . . ' But again, Hegel himself feels the appalling poverty of the argument, and in despair he dives into a collectivist mysticism (of Rousseau's making) and into historicism [43]: 'The question "To whom ... belongs the power of making a constitution?" is the same as "Who has to make the Spirit of a Nation?" Separate your idea of a constitution', Hegel exclaims, 'from that of a collective Spirit, as if the latter exists, or has existed, without a constitution, and your fancy proves how superficially you have apprehended the nexus' (namely, that between the Spirit and the constitution). '... It is the indwelling Spirit and the history of the Nation — which only is that Spirit's history — by which constitutions have been and are made.' But this mysticism is still too vague to justify absolutism. One must be more specific; and Hegel now hastens to be so: 'The really living totality,' he writes, 'that which preserves, and continually produces, the State and its constitution, is the Government ... In the Government, regarded as an organic totality, the Sovereign Power or Principate is ... the all-sustaining, all-decreeing Will of the State, its highest Peak and all-pervasive Unity. In the perfect form of the State in which each and every element . . . has reached its free existence, this will is that of one actual decreeing Individual (not merely of a majority in which the unity of the decreeing will has no actual existence); it is monarchy. The monarchical constitution is therefore the constitution of developed reason; and all other constitutions belong to lower grades of the development and the self-realization of reason.' And to be still more specific, Hegel explains in a parallel passage of his Philosophy of Law — the foregoing quotations are all taken from his Encyclopedia — that 'ultimate decision . . . absolute self-determination constitutes the power of the prince as such', and that 'the absolutely decisive element in the whole ... is a single individual, the monarch.'

Now we have it. How can anybody be so stupid as to demand a 'constitution' for a country that is blessed with an absolute monarchy, the highest possible grade of all constitutions anyway? Those who make such demands obviously know not what they do and what they are talking about, just as those who demand freedom are too blind to see that in the Prussian absolute monarchy, 'each and every element has reached its free existence'. In other words, we have here Hegel's absolute dialectical proof that Prussia is the 'highest peak', and the very stronghold, of freedom; that its absolutist constitution is the goal (not as some might think, the gaol) towards which humanity moves; and that its government preserves and keeps, as it were, the purest spirit of freedom — in concentration.

Plato's philosophy, which once had claimed mastership in the state, becomes with Hegel its most servile lackey.


These despicable services [44], it is important to note, were rendered voluntarily. There was no totalitarian intimidation in those happy days of absolute monarchy; nor was the censorship very effective, as countless liberal publications show. When Hegel published his Encyclopedia he was professor in Heidelberg. And immediately after the publication, he was called to Berlin to become, as his admirers say, the 'acknowledged dictator' of philosophy. But, some may contend, all this, even if it is true, does not prove anything against the excellence of Hegel's dialectic philosophy, or against his greatness as a philosopher. To this contention, Schopenhauer's reply has already been given: 'Philosophy is misused, from the side of the state as a tool, from the other side as a means of gain. Who can really believe that truth also will thereby come to light, just as a by-product?'

These passages give us a glimpse of the way in which Hegel's dialectic method is applied in practice. I now proceed to the combined application of dialectics and the philosophy of identity. Hegel, we have seen, teaches that everything is in flux, even essences. Essences and Ideas and Spirits develop; and their development is, of course, self-moving and dialectical [45]. And the latest stage of every development must be reasonable, and therefore good and true, for it is the apex of all past developments, superseding all previous stages. (Thus things can only get better and better.) Every real development, since it is a real process, must, according to the philosophy of identity, be a rational and reasonable process. It is clear that this must hold for history also.

Heraclitus had maintained that there is a hidden reason in history. For Hegel, history becomes an open book. The book is pure apologetics. By its appeal to the wisdom of Providence it offers an apology for the excellence of Prussian monarchism; by its appeal to the excellence of Prussian monarchism it offers an apology for the wisdom of Providence.

History is the development of something real. According to the philosophy of identity, it must therefore be something rational. The evolution of the real world, of which history is the most important part, is taken by Hegel to be 'identical' with a kind of logical operation, or with a process of reasoning. History, as he sees it, is the thought process of the 'Absolute Spirit' or 'World Spirit'. It is the manifestation of this Spirit. It is a kind of huge dialectical syllogism [46]; reasoned out, as it were, by Providence. The syllogism is the plan which Providence follows; and the logical conclusion arrived at is the end which Providence pursues — the perfection of the world. 'The only thought', Hegel writes in his Philosophy of History, 'with which Philosophy approaches History, is the simple conception of Reason; it is the doctrine that Reason is the Sovereign of the World, and that the History of the World, therefore, presents us with a rational process. This conviction and intuition is ... no hypothesis in the domain of Philosophy. It is there proven . . . that Reason . . . is Substance; as well as Infinite Power; . . . Infinite Matter . . .; Infinite Form ...; Infinite Energy ... That this "Idea" or "Reason" is the True, the Eternal, the absolutely Powerful Essence; that it reveals itself in the World, and that in that World nothing else is revealed but this and its honour and glory — this is a thesis which, as we have said, has been proved in Philosophy, and is here regarded as demonstrated.' This gush does not carry us far. But if we look up the passage in 'Philosophy' (i.e., in his Encyclopedia) to which Hegel refers, then we see a little more of his apologetic purpose. For here we read: 'That History, and above all Universal History, is founded on an essential and actual aim, which actually is, and will be, realized in it — the Plan of Providence; that, in short, there is Reason in History, must be decided on strictly philosophical grounds, and thus shown to be essential and in fact necessary.'

Now since the aim of Providence 'actually is realized' in the results of history, it might be suspected that this realization has taken place in the actual Prussia. And so it has; we are even shown how this aim is reached, in three dialectical steps of the historical development of reason, or, as Hegel says, of 'Spirit', whose 'life ... is a cycle of progressive embodiments' [47]. The first of these steps is Oriental despotism, the second is formed by the Greek and Roman democracies and aristocracies, and the third, and highest, is the Germanic Monarchy, which of course is an absolute monarchy. And Hegel makes it quite clear that he does not mean a Utopian monarchy of the future: 'Spirit . . . has no past, no future,' he writes, 'but is essentially now, this necessarily implies that the present form of the Spirit contains and surpasses all earlier steps.'

But Hegel can be even more outspoken than that. He subdivided the third period of history, Germanic Monarchy, or 'the German World', into three divisions too, of which he says [48]: 'First, we have to consider Reformation in itself — the all-enlightening Sun, following on that blush of dawn which we observed at the termination of the medieval period; next, the unfolding of that state of things which succeeded the Reformation; and lastly, Modern Times, dating from the end of the last century', i.e. the period from 1800 down to 1830 (the last year in which these lectures were delivered). And Hegel proves again that this present Prussia is the pinnacle and the stronghold and the goal of freedom. 'On the Stage of Universal History', Hegel writes 'on which we can observe and grasp it, Spirit displays itself in its most concrete reality.' And the essence of Spirit, Hegel teaches, is freedom. 'Freedom is the sole truth of Spirit.' Accordingly, the development of Spirit must be the development of freedom, and the highest freedom must have been achieved in those thirty years of the Germanic Monarchy which represent the last subdivision of historical development. And indeed, we read [49]: 'The German Spirit is the Spirit of the new World. Its aim is the realization of absolute Truth as the unlimited self-determination of Freedom.' And after a eulogy of Prussia, the government of which, Hegel assures us, 'rests with the official world, whose apex is the personal decision of the Monarch; for a final decision is, as shown above, an absolute necessity', Hegel reaches the crowning conclusion of his work: 'This is the point', he says, 'which consciousness has attained, and these are the principal phases of that form in which Freedom has realized itself; for the History of the World is nothing but the development of the Idea of Freedom . . . That the History of the World ... is the realization of Spirit, this is the true Theodicy, the justification of God in History . . . What has happened and is happening ... is essentially His Work . . . '

I ask whether I was not justified when I said that Hegel presents us with an apology for God and for Prussia at the same time, and whether it is not clear that the state which Hegel commands us to worship as the Divine Idea on earth is not simply Frederick William's Prussia from 1800 to 1830. And I ask whether it is possible to outdo this despicable perversion of everything that is decent; a perversion not only of reason, freedom, equality, and the other ideas of the open society, but also of a sincere belief in God, and even of a sincere patriotism.


I have described how, starting from a point that appears to be progressive and even revolutionary, and proceeding by that general dialectical method of twisting things which by now will be familiar to the reader, Hegel finally reaches a surprisingly conservative result. At the same time, he connects his philosophy of history with his ethical and juridical positivism, giving the latter a kind of historicist justification. History is our judge. Since History and Providence have brought the existing powers into being, their might must be right, even Divine right.

But this moral positivism does not fully satisfy Hegel. He wants more. Just as he opposes liberty and equality, so he opposes the brotherhood of man, humanitarianism, or, as he says, 'philanthropy'. Conscience must be replaced by blind obedience and by a romantic Heraclitean ethics of fame and fate, and the brotherhood of man by a totalitarian nationalism. How this is done will be shown in section III and especially— in section IV of this chapter.
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